Plan in Iraq Sees Large Force and Quick Strikes
David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Thom
THE NEW YORK TIMES
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Nov. 9 — President Bush has settled on a war plan for Iraq that would begin
with an air campaign shorter than the one for the Persian Gulf war, senior
administration officials say. It would feature swift ground actions to seize
footholds in the country and strikes to cut off the leadership in Baghdad.
plan, approved in recent weeks by Mr. Bush well before the Security Council's
unanimous vote on Friday to disarm Iraq, calls for massing 200,000 to 250,000
troops for attack by air, land and sea. The offensive would probably begin with
a "rolling start" of substantially fewer forces, Pentagon and military
Bush, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, did not discuss the secret
process for planning a possible war, but he noted that if military action was
required to compel Iraq to disarm, the United States and its allies would
"move swiftly with force to do the job." He repeated his determination
today, saying in his weekly radio address that "Iraq can be certain that
the old game of cheat-and-retreat, tolerated at other times, will no longer be
military plan calls for the quick capture of land within Iraq, which would be
used as bases to funnel American forces deeper into the country. That approach
is intended to relieve some of the diplomatic pressure created by massing troops
and initiating attacks from neighboring nations, including Saudi Arabia.
the plan, United States and coalition forces could operate out of such forward
bases in northern, western and southern Iraq, building on lessons learned in
Afghanistan, where the military seized a similar outpost south of Kandahar.
the Pentagon puts the finishing touches on a plan of attack, White House and
State Department officials are discussing what one senior official called a
"seamless transition" from attack to a military occupation of parts of
the country. It would include efforts to deliver food to Iraqis and to engage
them quickly in planning for economic development and eventual democracy in
areas that President Saddam Hussein has terrorized.
Iraqi scientists and local military officials would be encouraged to reveal the
location of hidden stores of weapons of mass destruction, a process Mr. Bush
publicly encouraged from the Rose Garden on Friday when he told Iraqis that
"by helping the process of disarmament, they help their country."
senior official, drawing on comparisons with the American occupation of Japan in
1945, said, "Our message will be that the faster we find the weapons and
arrest Saddam's guys, the faster they get some normalcy."
Bush, after several war-planning meetings with Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander of American forces in the gulf,
has decided that military action in Iraq would be carried out with the large
troop levels that General Franks has consistently advocated. Even so, Mr. Bush
can still maintain the formal position that no decision has been reached because
he has not yet ordered the nation to war.
as the United Nations weapons inspectors prepare to fly to Iraq, the American
military is moving into a new phase of positioning logistical forces that
military officials say are significant indicators of a movement toward war.
Army is loading tugboats, forklifts and other cargo-handling equipment onto the
Tern, a giant cargo ship in Hampton Roads, Va., that is bound for the gulf to
prepare ports for the arrival of tanks and other armored equipment.
the orders to send those heavy ground forces have not been given. "We have
a lot of things teed up to go if the big guys decide to send it," said one
senior Defense Department official. "But no green lights yet."
officials had been awaiting language from the Security Council because the
timetable for the inspection process will shape the schedule of troop
deployments and, ultimately, the start of any offensive that Mr. Bush may order.
equipment recently deployed to the gulf region will remain while inspections get
underway, officials said. But troops and ships sent for exercises or regular
duty might rotate with fresh forces if it appeared that the inspections were
moving ahead without obstruction.
plan still has some moving parts, senior administration officials said, but it
calls for 200,000 to 250,000 troops — several Army and Marine divisions,
aircraft carriers and Air Force wings. The only ally expected to contribute
significant ground forces is Britain, with several thousand troops expected to
were options within the plan, but there has only been one plan," one
military officer said. "They have settled on the bulk of it." But the
officer said the war plan maintains flexibility over the final deployment of
troops in order to cope with a range of Iraqi responses.
entire troop total may not necessarily be in the region when the offensive
begins. The bulk of the force would probably stand ready in case of battlefield
setbacks and be poised to occupy parts of Iraq as soon as resistance ends.
the plan, the air campaign would be less than the 43 days of the first gulf war,
and probably under a month, military officials said.
the opening hours of the air campaign, Navy and Air Force jets, including B-2
bombers carrying 16 one-ton satellite-guided bombs and B-1 bombers carrying 24
of the same weapons, would attack a range of targets from military headquarters
to air defenses. Only 9 percent of the weapons dropped in the gulf war were
precision-guided; this time, the figure would be well in excess of 60 percent,
allowing more effective bombing with fewer total aircraft, officials say.
campaign would quickly seek to cut off the country's leadership in Baghdad and a
few other important command centers in hopes of causing a rapid collapse of the
government, officials said.
in Afghanistan, Special Operations forces would infiltrate Iraq early in the
campaign to designate targets, to destroy sites holding weapons of mass
destruction, and to seize other objectives to prevent Mr. Hussein from slowing
the American assault by flooding the marshes in southern Iraq or igniting the
country's vast oil fields, officials said.
the United States wants to help transform Iraq quickly into a liberated nation,
the air campaign would be carried out to avoid the major destruction of the gulf
war. The campaign would try to avoid destroying important city services and
alienating the civilian population, and would also encourage Iraqi troops to
defect. The targets of a bombing campaign would be the specific pillars of power
holding up Iraq's government, like leadership headquarters and Mr. Hussein's
sprawling presidential compounds.
we would not want to kill many Iraqi soldiers, if they stupidly fight, we
will," a senior military official said.
officials say the war plan does not envision a clean break between the end of an
air campaign and the opening of a ground offensive, as in the first gulf war.
Instead, ground operations would be more likely to be woven into the opening
stages of the air war, with the aerial bombardment continuing "as long as
we find targets," one official said.
"inside-out" approach of attacking centers of power first aims to
capitalize on the American military's ability to strike at long distances and to
maneuver forces rapidly to neutralize a large target. One important aim would be
to disrupt Mr. Hussein's ability to order the use of weapons of mass
destruction. Another would be to wrest control of Baghdad from Iraqi forces
without getting bogged down in block-by-block urban warfare.
Mr. Hussein has proven to be a vicious adversary, and senior administration
officials have mounted a campaign to warn Iraq's military commanders that they
will be charged with war crimes if they unleash weapons of mass destruction.
This week, Mr. Bush hinted at another concern, that the Iraqi government would
purposefully sacrifice its population to stain an American military victory with
generals in Iraq must understand clearly there will be consequences for their
behavior," Mr. Bush said on Thursday. "Should they choose, if force is
necessary, to behave in a way that endangers the lives of their own citizens, as
well as citizens in the neighborhood, there will be a consequence. They will be
Bush did not say so specifically, but veteran analysts of the Iraqi government
say Mr. Hussein is preparing thousands of civilian volunteers to fill
"martyrs' brigades" and offer up their lives to bombs and advancing
troops, even though it is unclear how many would follow through.
of those volunteers would hope to slow the American-led offensive by acting as
suicide bombers or fighting in neighborhood defense squads, but their true
strategic goal would be to generate anti-American feelings in the region.
is no consideration about them triumphing over an enemy, but a second definition
of victory," said Yossef Bodansky, author of "The High Cost of Peace:
How Washington's Middle East Policy Left America Vulnerable to Terrorism."
"What Saddam is saying to himself is, `I'll give them real civilian bodies,
real civilian blood on Al Jazeera or CNN.' "
move to war has already raised concerns of terrorist reprisals in the United
States, and senior Pentagon officials say they anticipate a mobilization of the
National Guard and Reserves equal to or larger than the 265,000 called to active
duty in the first gulf war.
of these reserve forces would be assigned to guard sites like military
installations, civilian power plants and airports, although some would be
assigned to guard bases overseas and certain specialties would be required for
the Iraqi offensive. Several units have been notified that they may be summoned
to duty as early as January.
another sign of the total force that may be involved in offensive action and
post-war occupation of Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld has presented the White House with a
plan to inoculate as many as 500,000 service members against smallpox. Mr. Bush
has not yet decided on the vaccinations, which could have serious, even fatal,
side effects for a small percentage of those receiving the vaccine.
timetable for a war is closely tied to the requirements laid out in the Security
Council's resolution and to Mr. Hussein's compliance. The last deadline is Feb.
21, when inspectors are to report their findings to the Security Council.
Military planners say the longer nights and moderate weather then are optimal
task the international community now faces is to determine what choice Saddam
Hussein will make," Mr. Rumsfeld said on Friday, whether he will truly
disarm or evade the inspectors.
The New York Times Company
10, 2002 Bulatlat.com
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